A scene from Lola Montez, 1958. Image Courtesy of The National Library of Australia
It is with great sadness that we share the news that Australian composer Peter Stannard has died at the age of 86. Peter was the last surviving member of the creative trio behind the musical ‘Lola Montez’ which held many first for Australian musical theatre.
Peter Stannard was born in Sydney in 1931. He began piano studies at the age of twelve with Irene Fletcher, a pupil of Clara Schumann. Sadly these lessons were curtailed six months later due to evacuation from Sydney during World War II.
While still at Sydney Grammar School, he was professionally engaged to play for ballet schools, weddings and other events. Later, as a student at Sydney University he wrote music and lyrics for university revues and performed in several. While living in Brisbane, he performed in the Brisbane Repertory's productions of Richard of Bordeaux and Jane.
Stannard has been writing music all his life - piano suites, songs, revues, and musicals. His greatest success, Lola Montez (co-written with Alan Burke and Peter Benjamin) premiered in 1958 and is still performed by musical societies around Australia. The song 'Saturday Girl' made the hit parades and has been recorded by more artists than any other song from Australian musical theatre. The cast recording of the show was the first LP produced in Australia.
In 1959, following the success of Lola Montez, he composed a score for Australia's first original TV musical Pardon Miss Westcott. This was also recorded and released on LP. There was another collaboration with Peter Benjamin writing instant original songs in 40 minutes to titles suggested by the audience for ATN's live variety show Take a Chance.
Stannard composed special arrangements for the TV version of Albert Arlen's The Sentimental Bloke (1975) and the original music for the songs in Canberra Repertory's production of Errol Flynn's Great Big Adventure Book for Boys (1982). Both productions were directed by Alan Burke.
Meanwhile, Peter Stannard had married, had three sons and worked as a radio announcer, a copy and jingle writer, TV commercial producer, advertising agency director and freelance creative advertising advisor to the Sing Tao newspaper group in Sydney, until his retirement in 2003.
Despite his limited piano tuition, he has [sic] composed numerous classical works, many of which portray his leaning towards reflecting Australia in his music. Stannard's works include Capriccietto (1998) for flute and piano, The Entheon Concertino (1999), and a number of piano suites and pieces for chamber orchestra, including Evocations - A Blue Mountains Suite, The James Tyson Pastorelle, Concerto for Two Pianos, and more.
In 1996, Gay Daniel, who had worked for the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust on its season of Lola Montez, suggested to the composer her concept of a musical about 'Rosie'. The musical tells the story of Rose Shaw, the florist, free spirit and Sydney icon who for 40 years sold flowers in Martin Place - Rose was born in London of a Russian/Jewish father and Cockney mother and was well-known for singing opera arias while working at her flower stall. After work, Rosie attended all the first nights, opera, ballet, concerts in a chauffeur-driven Rolls. The musical Rosie has a strong, identifiable theme of universal love, ambition, disillusionment and eventual fulfilment.
Stannard has also written and produced a small book of illustrated children's stories.
Biography provided by the composer — current to 2014
Peter is survived by his three sons and five grandchildren.